Who are the Maoists?

Who are the Naxalites-Maoists?

Naxalites primarily comprise a group of far-Left radical Communists who believe in the Maoist political ideology. The Naxalites-Maoists primarily believe that mainstream political parties and the political system that operates through democracy are just hogwash. Real socio-political change can be brought about only through a people’s revolution and a mass movement to overthrow the current political order.

Growth of the Naxal Movement

The Naxal-Maoist insurgency in India is more than half a century old. It started in 1967 with the splitting of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the formation of the ultra-Left Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Initially, the movement had its cradle in a place called Naxalbari in West Bengal. However, as the modus operandi turned increasingly violent, the movement’s footprints extended beyond West Bengal and into the neighbouring states of Bihar and Odisha and thereafter it spread even farther to Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The West Bengal conundrum

From the early 1970s onward and until about 1977, West Bengal in particular saw a parallel political movement taking shape through the ‘revolutionary’ ideas propagated by the Naxalites, which ran counter to the mainstream political parties and the established norms of politics and governance. This alternative political ideology gradually turned extremely violent, leading to a massive mobilisation of the state machinery to counter the far-Left radicals. Apart from numerous arrests of and legal charges against the far-Left activists, there were also reports of large-scale extrajudicial killings of Naxalites by the state police force and use of various other repressive measures against the youths who had subscribed to this ideology and taken up arms against the state.

The worst-affected areas

The Naxalites-Maoists are currently active in about 62 districts of India. These involve the states of West Bengal (eight districts), Odisha (five), Bihar (five), Jharkhand (14), Madhya Pradesh (eight), Maharashtra (two), Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (10 each). Since 2007, Chhattisgarh is considered to be the epicentre of Maoist insurgency. Kidnappings and extortion are some of the ways in which these ultra-Left insurgent groups are believed to raise funds. According to one unofficial estimate, until 2010, these groups had accumulated illegal funds to the tune of Rs14 billion (around Dh709.31 million). According to a BBC report, between 1990 and 2010, close to 6,000 people had lost their lives in Maoist violence. However, according to unofficial estimates, the death toll is in excess of 13,000 for the said period.

The ‘Urban Maoists’

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has highlighted the Maoist threat in urban Maharashtra as a serious security challenge. According to Maharashtra Police, the caste violence triggered by a Dalit (backward caste) ceremony in Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra, on January 1, this year — which soon spread to other parts of Maharashtra — was a result of a growing unholy nexus between Maoists on one hand and disgruntled elements of the backward castes on the other. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) handbook, called Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution, published in 2007, provides a blueprint as to how the Indian state can be overthrown, first in the rural areas and then in big cities. The IB cautions against an attempt by active Maoist elements and their sympathisers in urban centres across India, to foment socio-political unrest by fanning the flames of dissatisfaction among the backward castes.


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